How to Play Hands Together on the Piano

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How to Play Hands Together on the Piano

This is Robert Estrin at The question today is “How do you play hands together on the piano?” This is a big subject. After all, playing hands together is what the piano is all about! You might wonder, particularly if you are a wind player or if you play almost any other instrument that plays one note at a time, how piano players play different parts in each of their hands. This is something that makes the piano unique. It’s what the instrument is all about. In fact, all keyboard instruments have this in common. So what is the secret? How do people do this? Even doing something like tapping your head and rubbing your tummy can be confusing for most people! The intricacy of the parts for each hand in piano music can present enormous challenges. You might wonder, how do you approach such a thing? There is an answer!

Of course, the more you practice, spending months or even years at the piano, it becomes more natural for you to be able to play independent parts at the same time. You may even develop the ability to read at sight new music that requires independence of the hands. But that usually takes a very long time to develop for most people. How can you do it right from the get-go?

I’ve been teaching piano for many years and I always introduce playing hands together from lesson one.

Otherwise, it would be like learning to ride a bike with one leg. It misses the whole point! How do you teach how to play the hands together? Even though it seems counter-intuitive, it’s by practicing hands separately. I don’t mean practicing incessantly hands separately. I mean that each phrase you work on, you practice each hand separately first. If you want to learn a new piece, rather than putting the hands together from the start, you break things down. Initially, you may read through the piece hands together a couple times just to get acquainted. Then, you should get to work and and start learning the piece. You should learn a very small section of each hand first while observing all the details.

Anytime you have music that can be broken down into chords, learn it in chords first.

By learning the chords, you are going to find the best fingering. It’s also easier since you only have a few chords to learn instead of so many separate notes. Once you have that learned, then you learn the other hand. Then you put the hands together and get it learned. Finally, you break up the chords and play the music as written.

When learning, you should also avoid using the pedal most of the time. The last step is adding the pedal. By working hands separately, each little phrase at a time and then putting them together, you have the benefit of breaking things down to size so you can master each section. You also can really digest a score and have all of the details learned because you focus on one phrase of music at a time. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of details in each phrase of music. How can this be? Each note has a duration and rhythm. Each note has a fingering. Each note has a phrasing and an expression. So, there are five aspects to each note. There’s only so much you can assimilate at a time!

That’s why learning small chunks of music a phrase at a time hands separately is such a powerful practice technique.

That’s the secret. You hear people playing intricate pieces of music that you want to play, and you wonder how it is possible to learn so much music with your hands doing dramatically different things. The accompanying video shows you how to achieve this with music that is relatively simple. But the same principle applies to learning any piece of music. That’s the secret to playing hands together on the piano. I hope you’ve enjoyed this here at, Your Online Piano Store. I’m Robert Estrin.